HERALD WEEKLY ISSUE 608: 21 March 2012

China makes giant leap forward in deep sea technology
The Chinese may soon be able to access 99.8% of the Earth’s sea floor

When Minister for Sea Bed Minerals, Deputy Prime Minister Hon Tom Marsters attended a meeting on Sea Bed Minerals in Korea in June last year, he reported on his return that he was informed by the Chinese and Korean delegations that by 2014 the technology to mine beyond 2,000 metres and further will be perfected. He said he was advised that commercial mining would not begin until 2021. (The manganese nodules on our sea bed are at a depth of around 6,000 metres).
What the Chinese did not disclose was that for the last 10 years they had been secretly researching, building and testing deep sea craft. Some 38 tests were completed. In a test done in 2010, a depth of 3,000 metres was reached. Then, in a test done in 2011, the Chinese craft with a crew of three, went deeper than 5,000 metres. Only five other craft in the world can go past 3,500 metres.
What is now apparent is that the Chinese are streets ahead of the other nations which have deep sea craft. Next month, the Chinese are to do a test dive of their craft down to 7,000 metres. If the test is successful, the Chinese craft will be the only one of the five that can go deeper than 6,500 metres. (See story this page)
If the Chinese craft can successfully reach 7,000 metres, it will be able to access 99.8 per cent of the planet’s ocean floor.
The dramatic progress by the Chinese is likely to compress the earlier announced timetables for technology perfection and commercial mining.
It may pay our government to be aware that commercial mining of our nodules may be a lot closer than 2021. The question is will enough be known about the environmental impacts by the time mining is ready to start? -Charles Pitt

Herald Issue 608 21 March
- Terms of one China Policy document should be reviewed
- Pacific Media Assistance Scheme Seeks Innovation
- Successful NZ visit by PM
- Rerekura Teaurere New Climate Change Coordinator
- News Briefs

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